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MJ-818 Bicycle Tail Light Review

Edited by Rita Braun, Braun & Company

Magicshine Light Reviews
This is the first in a series of three reviews of Magicshine lights. The lights are being tested while commuting in Colorado this fall. Look for reviews of two different headlights soon.

Magicshine MJ-818 Bicycle Tail Light

Tested: 503 miles

The cryptically named MJ-818 should simply be called the “Photon Torpedo.” It is without a doubt the brightest and most visible bicycle tail light I’ve ever seen. After reading this review, check out our video of the light in action.

Operation

The light unit has a very bright 85 lumen center LED surrounded by nine smaller LEDs in an outer ring. The light runs in three modes.

In Mode 1 there are two cycles. Cycle 1 lasts 20 seconds, where the center LED blinks on and off about two times per second. Then the light sequence changes to Cycle 2 for 15 seconds, where the LED bursts to about eight blinks per second, then turns off for half a second. These cycles repeat for as long as Mode 1 is active.

Mode 2 incorporates both the center LED and the nine LEDs in the outer ring. This mode alternates between one second bursts, each, of the very bright inner LED and the nine softer, outer lights. This pattern is repeated for the duration of Mode 2.

Mode 3 is simply a steady illumination of all 10 LED lights (one center + 9 outer ring).

This “Photon Torpedo” (the MJ-818) is activated by turning the outer dial of the light. There is no switch or button to push. The dial can be turned clockwise or counter-clockwise, cycling through the three modes and “Off” position.

Slightly more than a quarter turn from the “Off” position in either direction activates Mode 1, 2, and 3, then the “Off” again.

The operation of turning the dial was awkward at first. After a short time it became easy. In fact it appears to be better than the common push button on cycling tail lights: The dial gives a more positive feedback (you know you turned it). Also, the dial can be activated with large winter gloves on.

Bike Attachment

Mounting the light to a seat post or frame is quick and simple. The base of the light is curved and fits flush on a seat post. Using the larger O-ring included in the light kit, you can quickly secure and remove the light from your post or frame.

If you have a rear rack, the light mounts well in its back, upper corner (either left or right).

  1. Attach the smaller O-ring to one end of the light.
  2. Thread the free end of the O-ring around the outside of the rack’s vertical support, then up inside the horizontal support and on to the light.

Power Supply

The downside to generating high illumination is elevated power consumption. The MJ-818 draws more power than typical tail lights for bicycles.

Two battery configurations are available. If you are running an Magicshine headlight (as I do), a Y-cable can be used to tap into the headlight battery, allowing you to run both the headlight and tail light from the same battery. Make sure to factor in that the headlight run-time will be reduced in this battery configuration. For example, while testing my MJ-808E headlight, it ran for at least 2 ½ hours with the tail light running from the same battery. In a headlight-only setup, my maximum battery run-time is three hours.

Y-Cable Setup
I mounted one battery on top of my rear rack to power a handle-bar mounted headlight and a seat-post mounted tail light. This setup is on my 66 cm frame bicycle (I’m 6’6”), so there is ample cable to reach both lights.

The other way to power the light is with a dedicated battery. Purchase the light kit with a battery and you’ll get a run-time of up to 40 hours. When running on a dedicated battery and commuting about 7 ½ hours each week, I charge the tail light once a week. I didn’t run the dedicated battery to exhaustion during testing.

Cost

The light and Y-cable kit without the battery is $29.95. The light and battery kit without the Y-cable is $49.95. See kit details below the “Overall Rating” in this review for a complete list of what is included with each kit.

Overall Impression

The Magicshine MJ-818 is a bright and attention-grabbing bicycle tail light. I think its superior illumination has two main benefits. First is the obvious advantage of visibility during dark night-time rides. Second is that the light is very visible in twilight or urban light pollution.

Many bicycle tail lights are only visible to motorists at night. During the twilight hours or in urban light pollution, many LED tail lights fade into the surrounding environment—not so with the attention-grabbing MJ-818 LED light.

Mounting the light and battery in each configuration mentioned above is simple. And the three modes of operation provide good choices in a variety of situations. For example, if riding with other cyclists in a pack or pace line, the steady light would be a good choice.

Pros
Superior illumination
Multiple mode operation
Simple to mount and remove
Easy operation (even with winter gloves)

Cons
Possibly too bright for group riding and pace lines (but a great excuse to ride in back)

Overall Rating: Excellent

Light & Y-Cable Kit Includes:

Tail light head
Y-Cable
Attachment hardware

Light & Battery Kit Includes:

Tail light head
2200Ah Li-ion battery pack with mounting pouch
Smart charger
Attachment hardware

Features:

Built of 6061-T6 aircraft aluminum with Type 3 Hard Anodizing
Three modes of operation
Runs up to 40 hours per charge
85 Lumen output
Mounts to the seat post or frame (secured in place by a heavy rubber O-ring)
Includes two O-ring sizes to accommodate different frame tube diameters

The MJ-818 tail light provided by and can be purchased at:  Action LED Lights

Magicshine Official Website

Rita Braun writes and edits for Braun & Company. If you’ve got something to say and want your audience to hear it, contact her here to find out how she can help you do that.

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